Vedder River Steelhead Season

Vedder River Steelhead Season

One question I am often asked is, “When is the best time to try for Steelhead on the Vedder River?”, so here I will try to give a quick breakdown of the Steelhead season from beginning to end.

As Fall turns to Winter, the very first Winter Steelhead enter the Chilliwack/Vedder River. My earliest Steelhead catches on the Vedder River have been between Nov. 25-Dec. 5. These are mostly chance encounters while fishing for late Coho Salmon and Trout.

It is far more common to see the first Winter Steelhead enter the river around Dec. 15. For my Winter Steelhead guided trips, I don’t offer dates earlier than Jan. 15. This allows for enough Steelhead to enter the system for anglers to confidently have a chance at catching one.


I have observed that the first big push of Steelhead enters the river around Jan. 10-20 in a typical year. After this, the river will see varying pushes of fish enter the system all the way through February, March, and April. The Chilliwack system even gets some very late returning fish in May.

In my thirty plus years of fishing the Chilliwack/Vedder River system for Steelhead, I’ve come to see that most Steelhead will spawn in late April until late May. Over the course of my Steelhead career, I’ve only caught a handful of Kelt Steelhead before the end of April. A Kelt Steelhead is a fish that has already spawned and takes on a very snake-like appearance, with a skinny body.

While Steelhead will enter the system every month, an interesting fact was discovered through a tagging program in the 1990s. It was found that Steelhead would enter the river, stay for a short time, and then exit the system again to presumably hold in the Fraser River. While not much is known about this phenomenon, it seems reasonable to me that this behavior is for their safety. Perhaps it is the heavy fishing pressure that they encounter once entering the smaller river that causes this behavior.

I have noted that the fish will often enter in greater numbers around the timing of a full moon. Full moons bring large tides, which would explain why the fish make their move up the Fraser to the Chilliwack River during and around the big tides of the full moon.

I would love to give you a standard best time to fish scenario, but each year is slightly different and factors such as river levels and weather patterns are very much influential.
I have noticed that early season is typically higher water with more colour in the water, whereas March is a time of lower water and bright sunny days which can add a challenge to finding fish.

My personal most productive Steelheading days have historically landed during late March and throughout the month of April. I think this is likely attributed to the fact that a majority of the run is in the river system by that time. Another factor contributing to the later season success would be the warming temperatures of Spring, warming the waters. When the water warms, Steelhead become more active and seem to bite more aggressively. This is a great time of year to increase the size of your presentations and use highly attractive lures like spinners, spoons, and large gaudy jigs.

I offer guided Steelhead trips on foot from Jan. 15 through to the end of April, and I’d love to get you out on the water for a day or two of Steelheading!
The average Steelhead of the Chilliwack/Vedder River are noted to be a good size, with a hard fighting nature!

Have a great Winter Steelhead Season, Tight Lines & Bent Rods!

~Rod Toth